The Tudor Period

1457 - 1603: When Henry the Eighth dissolved the monasteries, the Church abandoned all road repair work. It hadn’t been much but now there was nothing. So Henry ordered parishes to keep their ways passable. This arrangement was adequate for roads that the parishioners used themselves but proved unsatisfactory for the principal highways that were used by long-distance travellers and waggoners.

After Henry VIII’s death the country continued in religious turmoil through the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I, swinging from Protestant to Catholic and back again.

During the whole of this time, nothing was done to improve the roads, and even during the long and relatively stable reign of Elizabeth the First, nothing was donr .

It seems impossible to our modern minds, but this is simply how things were. Improving roads was apparently beyond either the organisation, the finances or perhaps the needs of society.

Incidentally, Henry instigated the first ever postal service. It was for the exclusive use of the king and involved riders who would take messages to destinations across the nation.

These riders could presumably travel across country, but the roads on which carts with goods travelled continued to be dreadful.

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The landscape was very different from today. Apart from the grand houses of the landed gentry, only a few areas in towns and villages were enclosed, so the patchwork of fields and hedgerows that we know today simply didn’t exist. Roads consisted of trackways across open countryside.

They had no structure or foundation so they followed the firmest ground. Where it was relatively stable the road would be narrow but where it was softer, it became deep muddy ruts. And when floodwaters rendered it impassable, the waggons, carts, and laden horses went wide and struggled past each other using the nearest firm spots. Sometimes, the road would become hundreds of yards wide. In winter such areas would often become impassable and all travel would cease until the following year when the weather improved.

Next: The Stuarts

The Tudor monarchs - Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I

An unmade road in wet weather

Section 3:

The Roads


‍​The world of long-distance coach travel.








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Britain’s roads were pretty impassable for most of our history.  Coach travel was very difficult until they improved

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